ZION NATIONAL PARK
ZION NATIONAL PARK
Zion National Park
Springdale, Utah 84737
Zion is an ancient Hebrew word meaning a place of refuge or sanctuary. Protected within the park's 229 square miles is a dramatic landscape of sculptured canyons and soaring cliffs. Zion is located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave Desert provinces. This unique geography and the variety of life zones within the park make Zion significant as a place of unusual plant and animal diversity.
Located in Washington , Iron and Kane Counties in Southwestern Utah , Zion National Park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States . The park is characterized by high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons and striking rock towers and mesas. Zion Canyon is the largest and most visited canyon in the park. The North Fork of the Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge here, with canyon walls in most places rising 2000-3000 feet above the canyon floor. The southern part of the park is a lower desert area, with colorful mesas bordered by rocky canyons and washes. The northern sections of the park are higher plateaus covered by forests.
The Historic period begins in the late 1700s, with the exploration and settlement of southern Utah by Euro-Americans. Initial explorations by traders from New Mexico blazed the Old Spanish Trail, which followed the Virgin River for a portion of its length. During the next century, American fur trappers and government surveyors added new overland travel routes across the region. In 1872, John Wesley Powell explored the areas around Zion Canyon, as part of western surveys conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey. The early pack trails soon became well-used wagon roads, connecting Santa Fe to the California markets.
In 1847, Brigham Young led members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Mormons to Utah Territory, establishing settlements in the Great Salt Lake Valley. Within a decade, Mormon pioneers were sent to settle the southern part of the territory and grow cotton in Utah's Dixie. Towns like Shunesberg, Springdale, Grafton, Adventure, and Paradise sprang up along the upper Virgin River during the 1860s. In 1863, Issac Behunin built the first log cabin in Zion Canyon, near the location of the Zion Lodge. Soon the canyon was dotted with other homesteads, including that of William Crawford, near Oak Creek.
During the remainder of the century, the small communities and homesteads struggled to survive. Catastrophic flooding by the river, little arable land, and poor soils made agriculture in the upper Virgin River a risky venture. Some of these settlements, including Shunesberg and Grafton, were ultimately abandoned for more favorable locations.
By the first decade of the 20th century, the scenic qualities of southern Utah, and Zion Canyon in particular, had been recognized as a potential destination for tourism. In 1909, a presidential Executive Order designated Mukuntuweap Zion National Monument, in Zion Canyon. The new monument was, however, virtually inaccessible to visitors, since the existing roads were in poor condition and the closest railhead a hundred miles away. The Utah State Road Commission, established in that year, began construction on a state highway system that would eventually improve access to the southern region. State officials also negotiated with the Union Pacific Railroad to develop rail and automobile links and tourism facilities in southern Utah. By the summer of 1917, touring cars could finally reach Wylie Camp, a tent camping resort that comprised the first visitor lodging in Zion Canyon.
In 1919, a Congressional bill designating Zion National Park was signed into law. Visitation to the new national park increased steadily during the 1920s, particularly after the Union Pacific extended a spur rail line to Cedar City. The Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific, acquired the Wylie Camp in Zion, and offered ten day rail/bus tours to Zion, Bryce, Kaibab, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Construction on the Zion Lodge complex, designed in Rustic Style by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, began in the mid-1920s. In 1930, the newly completed Zion-Mt Carmel highway allowed motorists to travel through Zion to Bryce and points east. This highway was one of the greatest engineering feats of modern times, requiring the construction of a 5,613-foot tunnel to negotiate the vertical sandstone cliffs of Zion.
Visitor numbers at Zion National Park have continued to increase over time, necessitating the construction of trails, campgrounds, and other facilities. The economic benefits of tourism now support the small communities surrounding the park, ensuring their survival into a new millennium of human history.
South Campground - First-come, first-serve. You may self-register at the campground entrance. Individual campsites are $16 per site per night.
Watchman Campground - Watchman Campground accepts reservations. Reservations may be made five months in advance for April 2-October 31 by calling (800) 365-2267, or visit. Tent sites are $16 per site per night. Sites with electricity are available for $18 per site per night. Designated riverside sites are $20 per night. (Rates are subject to change.)
Available by reservation in Watchman Campground to organized groups of 9-40 people for $3.00 per person; (800) 365-2267, or visit. Facilities include restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables, fire grates, and RV dump stations. No showers or hookups are available.
Holders of Golden Age and Golden Access Passports receive a 50% discount on all camping fees.
Campgrounds can fill up during the summer months. Arrival before noon generally ensures a campsite except during holiday weekends. Facilities include restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables, fire grates, RV dump stations. No showers are available.
Three miles north on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Open year-round. Motel rooms, cabins, and suites available. Zion Lodge also has a gift shop and post office. Reservations recommended: 1-888-297-2757.